Soccer star Ada Hegerberg became the first woman to win the Ballon d’Or. She was asked if she could twerk

Soccer star Ada Hegerberg became the first woman to win the Ballon d’Or. She was asked if she could twerk
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It was meant to be a moment of triumph. Ada Hegerberg, a 23-year-old Norwegian soccer player, had just become the first woman to win the Ballon d’Or, one of soccer’s most prestigious individual honours.

But for some, the historic moment was quickly spoiled when, in an onstage exchange after her acceptance speech Monday, the French DJ Martin Solveig asked Hegerberg something that had nothing to do with her expertise: whether she knew how to twerk.

“No,” Hegerberg said, quickly dismissing the idea.

The exchange took off on social media, where critics — including some high-profile athletes — accused Solveig of sexism and assailed him for undermining a moment of professional achievement with a reference to the provocative dance move. The controversy nearly overshadowed the news that Luka Modric beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the men’s Ballon d’Or. The award for best player had been reserved for male players from its inception in 1956, until the women’s Ballon d’Or was created this year.

“This is an absolute joke,” Lindsey Horan, a United States women’s team midfielder who was one of the finalists for the women’s Ballon d’Or, tweeted in response to Solveig’s comment. She offered her support for Hegerberg: “Congrats and you do not deserve this.”

Andy Murray, the tennis star, also condemned the comment in a post on Instagram. “To everyone who thinks people are overreacting and it was just a joke.. It wasn’t,” he wrote. “I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”

(From left) 2018 FIFA Ballon d’Or awarded for best player of the year, Men’s Ballon d’Or Real Madrid’s Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, Women’s Ballon d’Or Olympique Lyonnais’ Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg and Under-21 Ballon d’Or (Koppa trophy) Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe. FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

She said her mind was on her achievement: “I got the Ballon d’Or.”

In a video posted on Twitter, Solveig said he was “amazed” by the comments he had seen online. “I didn’t mean to offend anyone and I didn’t know that this could be seen as such an offense, especially if you consider the sequence in total,” he said.

After Hegerberg dismissed the twerking comment, Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon” began to play, and she and Solveig slow-danced briefly.

Solveig played music and danced throughout the ceremony. When Kylian Mbappé, who helped France’s men’s team win the World Cup this year, won the Kopa Trophy for the best men’s player under 21, he and the DJ danced (albeit without touching) to Drake’s “God’s Plan.”

Still, in his Twitter post, Solveig acknowledged his comment to Hegerberg was a misstep: “This was a joke — probably a bad one.”

The Ballon d’Or, awarded annually by the magazine France Football, was originally created to honor the European player of the year, and has had a history of exclusion. The Brazilian soccer star Pelé, who never signed for a European club, never won the award, for example. It did not became a global prize until 2007.

And while FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, introduced a women’s world player of the year award in 2001, the Ballon d’Or remained reserved for male players until September, when France Football’s editor announced that the magazine would honor a woman for the first time this year.

A list of 15 finalists was announced in October. The winner was chosen by a group of 40 voters — a different group than the judges for the men’s award. Ferre said there were different voters because women’s players deserved to be assessed by people who followed them regularly. “Only experts can vote,” he said.

Olympique Lyonnais’ Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg gestures after receiving the 2018 FIFA Women’s Ballon d’Or award for best player of the year during the 2018 FIFA Ballon d’Or award ceremony at the Grand Palais in Paris on December 3, 2018. – FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Hegerberg, who plays for the perennial French champions Olympique Lyon, has spoken up about what she says is a lack of respect for women’s soccer in Norway and has said she won’t play for her home country in the next Women’s World Cup.

But in her acceptance speech Monday, Hegerberg had a message for “young girls all over the world.”

“Please,” she said, “believe in yourselves.”

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